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  1. #1
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    The inherent conservation of resources in car free living

    I think a car free lifestyle promotes less waste of natural resources simply because we humans don't like to waste our personal energy. Humans are naturally "lazy". At one time that was a survival advantage. But not in modern society. Wasting gas is different. That's not personal energy. It's a magical juice you poor into your gas tank and then suddenly traveling and hauling goods is free.

    But when people need to exert their personal muscles in meeting their needs, they'll naturally consider the cost vs. benefit. This leads to conservation of resources. I've noticed that since becoming car free, I pay more attention to carefully grocery shopping so I have the food I need, but won't be throwing out food.

    If I need to put food in the trash can, I'm struck by the thought of how silly it was to buy it. My use of personal energy makes no sense there. I'm riding my bicycle to the grocery store, spending my hard earned money, hauling all my goods by bicycle, unpacking them into the cooler, then I compost the food and haul plastic/glass/etc. to the recycling center when I go to the market again. What good is that?

    I think it was easier to throw food away when not car free because I was not so invested in personal energy for acquiring that food.

    How do you see this? What other kinds of economy might be naturally encouraged by car free lifestyle?

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    Essentially, what I'm getting at in this post is that I find it cool that car free living promotes conservation in some non-obvious ways. The obvious conservation is with gasoline. Almost as obvious, are the natural resources that go into manufacturing the automobile. Then there's the lack of support that you're offering for the whole automobile infrastructure, parts, car dealerships, etc. But the list goes on as you fan out from there and look at the natural incentive to conserve that's built into living car free. That being that it's simply more difficult to waste resources when you're car free - so people do it less.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    Essentially, what I'm getting at in this post is that I find it cool that car free living promotes conservation in some non-obvious ways. The obvious conservation is with gasoline. Almost as obvious, are the natural resources that go into manufacturing the automobile. Then there's the lack of support that you're offering for the whole automobile infrastructure, parts, car dealerships, etc. But the list goes on as you fan out from there and look at the natural incentive to conserve that's built into living car free. That being that it's simply more difficult to waste resources when you're car free - so people do it less.
    This is a marveling revelation, isn't it? It's true of all activities where human power is substituted for machine power. Try making a table with a hand saw and hand-drill, screwdrivers, etc., for example. It takes more time and effort but the experience of each part of the building process becomes so intimate and you gain a direct sense of how much energy/power is being used because you feel it in your muscles. With a good saw and hand drill, it's amazing how fast and easy most cuts and hole-drillings go. Whereas you'd drill a hole through a 2X4 in, say, a couple seconds with a power drill, it might take 30 seconds with a hand drill. The same is the case with a good saw. With a bad saw, you could be torturing yourself for a while, however.

    Anyway, you also notice that when cycling you perceive the need to downshift or upshift on an incline or according to head- or tail-wind. These same forces are present when driving, and they affect your fuel-efficiency but how often have you thought about how hard your engine is working against the wind or how much easier it is for the car to drive down a hill than up it? Unless you're driving something with a very weak motor, you don't notice these things because the driving/power culture is all about eliminating the effects of nature interfering with your ability to control the vehicle. People make jokes about motor-vehicles that slow down climbing a hill or going into a head-wind. If the hill or head wind is strong enough to impair the power/performance of even high-powered vehicles, people tell awe-inspiring stories of their cars being shaken by the wind or their brakes going out because they didn't downshift descending a long hill. It's like they are shocked to have nature even entering into the picture. With cycling, you're constantly aware of wind and inclines and you simply factor them into your pedaling effort.

    And as for what you can carry by bike, don't stop with food. Try planning to build something (start small with a table or something like that) and use only a bike to pick up the materials. You can often get lumber stores to cut lumber to the size you need. You may need to make multiple trips but ultimately you have a piece of furniture that you brought home using only your own human power. It can be very satisfying and, if you're spiritual, it gives you a sense of utilizing the energy that you were built/designed to use as your nature.

    I don't mean to minimize the adventure of developing a food-shopping routine that is easily bikeable, though. I used to take a bike trailer to the store once or twice a month to do grocery shopping and now I mostly just use the basket on the back of my bike and just make a couple trips per week. Once every month or every couple months I'll get a big bag of rice or a bunch of boxes of pasta or other dry carbohydrates so those are always on hand. Once upon a time I can remember lugging car loads of food home from supermarkets but in retrospect I can't imagine why that seemed necessary. There must have been a lot of inefficiently-packaged foodstuff involved, like bags of potato chips and other snacks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    This is a marveling revelation, isn't it? It's true of all activities where human power is substituted for machine power. Try making a table with a hand saw and hand-drill, screwdrivers, etc., for example. It takes more time and effort but the experience of each part of the building process becomes so intimate and you gain a direct sense of how much energy/power is being used because you feel it in your muscles. With a good saw and hand drill, it's amazing how fast and easy most cuts and hole-drillings go. Whereas you'd drill a hole through a 2X4 in, say, a couple seconds with a power drill, it might take 30 seconds with a hand drill. The same is the case with a good saw. With a bad saw, you could be torturing yourself for a while, however.
    Good point. My focus was on conservation. But I think you're right that the underlying issue is human vs. machine power. You can do a lot more of <whatever> with machines. Unfortunately what's being done with them is not all good. Getting to the store under human power does consume *some* natural resources. But like most human vs. machine issues (really "human power" vs. "machine power"), the machine elevates the consumption by orders of magnitude.

    And as for what you can carry by bike, don't stop with food. Try planning to build something (start small with a table or something like that) and use only a bike to pick up the materials. You can often get lumber stores to cut lumber to the size you need. You may need to make multiple trips but ultimately you have a piece of furniture that you brought home using only your own human power. It can be very satisfying and, if you're spiritual, it gives you a sense of utilizing the energy that you were built/designed to use as your nature.
    Yes. I used to approach home projects much more casually when I drove a car. I would often get started on a project and not get very far before I realize that I need something else. No problem, just jump in the car and ride back to the hardware store. Not so much anymore. I either don't do it at all (like go ride my bike instead) or I'll plan the work much more carefully.

    I don't mean to minimize the adventure of developing a food-shopping routine that is easily bikeable, though. I used to take a bike trailer to the store once or twice a month to do grocery shopping and now I mostly just use the basket on the back of my bike and just make a couple trips per week. Once every month or every couple months I'll get a big bag of rice or a bunch of boxes of pasta or other dry carbohydrates so those are always on hand. Once upon a time I can remember lugging car loads of food home from supermarkets but in retrospect I can't imagine why that seemed necessary. There must have been a lot of inefficiently-packaged foodstuff involved, like bags of potato chips and other snacks.
    For me, I take my cargo trailer to the farmer's market and walmart once a week. I'm shopping for me and my elderly mother who lives with me. Taking the trailer, I see as a time-management issue. I spend less time shopping if I bring a trailer load of goods home once per week than if I skipped using the trailer but went twice per week. There's "overhead" in making the trip. It takes marginally longer to deal with the trailer. But in the end it saves time because of fewer trips.

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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I spend a lot more time outdoors because I use human powered transportation. When I'm outdoors, I'm not using as much electricity and conditioned air in the house. I just have to remember to turn off the lights, computer, and TV, and adjust the thermostat when I leave the house.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    I think a car free lifestyle promotes less waste of natural resources simply because we humans don't like to waste our personal energy. Humans are naturally "lazy". At one time that was a survival advantage. But not in modern society. Wasting gas is different. That's not personal energy. It's a magical juice you poor into your gas tank and then suddenly traveling and hauling goods is free.

    But when people need to exert their personal muscles in meeting their needs, they'll naturally consider the cost vs. benefit. This leads to conservation of resources. I've noticed that since becoming car free, I pay more attention to carefully grocery shopping so I have the food I need, but won't be throwing out food.

    If I need to put food in the trash can, I'm struck by the thought of how silly it was to buy it. My use of personal energy makes no sense there. I'm riding my bicycle to the grocery store, spending my hard earned money, hauling all my goods by bicycle, unpacking them into the cooler, then I compost the food and haul plastic/glass/etc. to the recycling center when I go to the market again. What good is that?



    I think it was easier to throw food away when not car free because I was not so invested in personal energy for acquiring that food.

    How do you see this? What other kinds of economy might be naturally encouraged by car free lifestyle?
    It's not just food or building materials that are conserved. I make far fewer trips to go window shopping. And, because I'm window shopping less often, I am also buying fewer clothes.

    And like you, I always have to think that whatever it is I buy, I have to first carry it around the stores with me in my pannier, then haul the stuff home when I'm finished my trip. So that sure cures my urge to overbuy!

    Also, when I do shop, I shop downtown, because it's the closest. So I can take the "lazy" way out and support the local businesses. Not everyone can do this, but I'm lucky to be able to be lazy this way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    Good point. My focus was on conservation. But I think you're right that the underlying issue is human vs. machine power. You can do a lot more of <whatever> with machines. Unfortunately what's being done with them is not all good. Getting to the store under human power does consume *some* natural resources. But like most human vs. machine issues (really "human power" vs. "machine power"), the machine elevates the consumption by orders of magnitude.
    Wow, good to hear from someone else who gets this instead of all the people who lump all machines and machine power together as 'technology' and label people like us 'anti-modern' if we point out that some technologies are detrimental even while others are beneficial, or at least not a problem.

    One of the biggest revelations I've had in life came with having a very social-egalitarian economic orientation and then realizing that the communist dream before the era of modern mass production was for the workers to be able to produce enough so that no one would have to go without. That was a noble aspiration shared by both communists and capitalists in the 18th/19th centuries but when industrialism actually began facilitating huge amounts of productivity per unit human-labor, the results were disastrous. Greed and gluttony have taken over and most people seem to be willing to hammer out excessive amounts of practically anything with the goal of getting ever richer and hyperconsuming. As a result, natural land gets overdeveloped, mass waste and junk piles up, and all sorts of other consequences ensue as people fail to bother to live conscientiously in their mundane choices and activities.

    From the way you describe your lifestyle, it sounds like you have become a lot more conscientious from having shifted to using the bike for everyday activities and it's great to hear.

    For me, I take my cargo trailer to the farmer's market and walmart once a week. I'm shopping for me and my elderly mother who lives with me. Taking the trailer, I see as a time-management issue. I spend less time shopping if I bring a trailer load of goods home once per week than if I skipped using the trailer but went twice per week. There's "overhead" in making the trip. It takes marginally longer to deal with the trailer. But in the end it saves time because of fewer trips.
    Yes, a trailer is great, especially if you're shopping for multiple people without their help. I think you can get as much groceries or more in a trailer as in the trunk of an average car. It's nice that you take care of your mother and that you are able to do so by bike. Spiritually, I would guess you're in a paradise of good conscience. I'm sure there are challenges that you'd rather not deal with but I also hope to be able to live that way one day when someone close to me is elderly and in need of care.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    It's nice that you take care of your mother and that you are able to do so by bike. Spiritually, I would guess you're in a paradise of good conscience. I'm sure there are challenges that you'd rather not deal with but I also hope to be able to live that way one day when someone close to me is elderly and in need of care.
    Thanks for the kind thoughts. Yes. I was car free before my mother moved in. She had gotten to a point that the whole family was worried about her alone, as weak as she is. I actually get a little bit more spring in my step being able to do all the shopping/food for both of us. I'm more motivated every day, taking care of both of us instead of just me. On the weekends we often go to lunch somewhere, with me pushing her wheelchair for 3-5 miles RT. That pushes my fitness along (there's some steep hills involved), and she enjoys the opportunity to get out of the house. I pat myself on the back because I'm one of six children that *could have* stepped up to help mom and the only one that's car free. Other than me my whole family is all about pretty much as little exertion as possible. I've failed to inspire by example I guess.

    But it's all good. I feel good about myself and how I'm living. I think it's a miracle really, that I can maintain a strong baseline of strength (that I'm sure improves my health too) at age 54. And the irony is that I'm having fun doing it! I used to (when I road much less) really push myself hard on the bicycle. As a result I really was not enjoying myself so much as being driven by a sense of purpose and a goal of being fit and strong. My attitude has changed some as I've gotten older. And it's also changed because I'm car free. Riding for 3+ hours average every day of my life, I let myself off the hook for doing it at a pace that I can enjoy. I still ride hard. But I do it when it's fun and I ride slow and tool along enjoying the breeze too. It feels more like when I was a kid. I remember as a child, charging up hills and coasting down the other side and the feeling of freedom my bicycle gave me.

    The people around me are all vegging out and letting the years drag them down. I wish people could "get it". I see the whole world lamenting about their condition as a natural side effect of aging. It's of course true that aging eventually results in more and more health problems or death. It's true for anybody. But without sustained and regular exercise there's a night and day difference between how fast that happens. And when most people lament about their aches and pains, they resign themselves to the idea that they're just "getting old". That leaves them with no personal responsibility for their condition. No, that's not what getting old is all about. That's what years and years of no regular exercise does.

    The alternative is not suffering - it's liberating.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    Thanks for the kind thoughts. Yes. I was car free before my mother moved in. She had gotten to a point that the whole family was worried about her alone, as weak as she is. I actually get a little bit more spring in my step being able to do all the shopping/food for both of us. I'm more motivated every day, taking care of both of us instead of just me. On the weekends we often go to lunch somewhere, with me pushing her wheelchair for 3-5 miles RT. That pushes my fitness along (there's some steep hills involved), and she enjoys the opportunity to get out of the house. I pat myself on the back because I'm one of six children that *could have* stepped up to help mom and the only one that's car free. Other than me my whole family is all about pretty much as little exertion as possible. I've failed to inspire by example I guess.

    But it's all good. I feel good about myself and how I'm living. I think it's a miracle really, that I can maintain a strong baseline of strength (that I'm sure improves my health too) at age 54. And the irony is that I'm having fun doing it! I used to (when I road much less) really push myself hard on the bicycle. As a result I really was not enjoying myself so much as being driven by a sense of purpose and a goal of being fit and strong. My attitude has changed some as I've gotten older. And it's also changed because I'm car free. Riding for 3+ hours average every day of my life, I let myself off the hook for doing it at a pace that I can enjoy. I still ride hard. But I do it when it's fun and I ride slow and tool along enjoying the breeze too. It feels more like when I was a kid. I remember as a child, charging up hills and coasting down the other side and the feeling of freedom my bicycle gave me.

    The people around me are all vegging out and letting the years drag them down. I wish people could "get it". I see the whole world lamenting about their condition as a natural side effect of aging. It's of course true that aging eventually results in more and more health problems or death. It's true for anybody. But without sustained and regular exercise there's a night and day difference between how fast that happens. And when most people lament about their aches and pains, they resign themselves to the idea that they're just "getting old". That leaves them with no personal responsibility for their condition. No, that's not what getting old is all about. That's what years and years of no regular exercise does.

    The alternative is not suffering - it's liberating.
    I really enjoy reading your posts. Have you thought about some kind of wheelchair/bike setup, such as a pedicab type of setup where you pull her wheelchair as a trailer or maybe one of those wheelchair bikes where you push the wheelchair in the front of the bike? http://www.resthaven.org/702032.ihtml

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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    I really enjoy reading your posts. Have you thought about some kind of wheelchair/bike setup, such as a pedicab type of setup where you pull her wheelchair as a trailer or maybe one of those wheelchair bikes where you push the wheelchair in the front of the bike? http://www.resthaven.org/702032.ihtml
    I haven't - but now I am!

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    winter wipeout kitty wipekitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post

    How do you see this? What other kinds of economy might be naturally encouraged by car free lifestyle?
    I definitely notice a difference! I can bike to the shopping areas just fine, but it's not really a pleasant ride. Instead, most of our shopping (other than groceries, home improvement, and thrift shopping) happens online, which eliminates impulse buys and lets me actually think about a potential purchase for a few days.

    My city now charges for large garbage hauling (though you can take it to the far away landfill for free), so I'm more likely to repurpose items (the carpet I ripped out of the bedroom, for example) and avoid bringing in items like cheap furniture that will eventually become large garbage. Yard waste has to be hauled out to an island - doable with the trailer - but instead, I just dump it in the yard and mulch it.

    On the other hand, my partner and I wear out clothing and especially shoes more quickly. In the winter, we use more water than a car-dependent household might for both laundry and showering, since we have to wear a lot of clothing to go outside.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    I think a car free lifestyle promotes less waste of natural resources simply because we humans don't like to waste our personal energy. Humans are naturally "lazy". At one time that was a survival advantage. But not in modern society. Wasting gas is different. That's not personal energy. It's a magical juice you poor into your gas tank and then suddenly traveling and hauling goods is free.

    But when people need to exert their personal muscles in meeting their needs, they'll naturally consider the cost vs. benefit. This leads to conservation of resources. I've noticed that since becoming car free, I pay more attention to carefully grocery shopping so I have the food I need, but won't be throwing out food.

    I think it was easier to throw food away when not car free because I was not so invested in personal energy for acquiring that food.

    How do you see this? What other kinds of economy might be naturally encouraged by car free lifestyle?
    I hate waste regardless of what it took to acquire the wasted items.

    If I drive to the store to buy something and subsequently throw it away my annoyance is at the loss of value of the item. Chances are I didn't make a special trip to buy it, or I'd have considered whether I'd use it more carefully. If I was going grocery shopping and threw away some of the groceries it's not as if the journey was wasted, and the incremental cost of hauling a couple of extra items is minimal whether they're hauled by car or by bike.

    Taking your specific comment here:

    If I need to put food in the trash can, I'm struck by the thought of how silly it was to buy it. My use of personal energy makes no sense there. I'm riding my bicycle to the grocery store, spending my hard earned money, hauling all my goods by bicycle, unpacking them into the cooler, then I compost the food and haul plastic/glass/etc. to the recycling center when I go to the market again. What good is that?
    and applying it to driving to the store, you get:

    If I need to put food in the trash can, I'm struck by the thought of how silly it was to buy it. My use of energy makes no sense there. I'm burning fuel driving to the grocery store, spending my hard earned money, burning fuel driving home again, unpacking them into the cooler, then I compost the food and haul plastic/glass/etc. to the recycling center when I go to the market again. What good is that?

    If you regard gas as some magical juice you just pour into your car then perhaps you might think differently. I see gas as something I have to pay for, and I consider the fuel cost of doing something to be part of the overall cost. In simple terms if I get 35mpg and gas is $3.50/gal then if I'm going somewhere 50 miles away I figure it's a $10 round trip.
    "For a list of ways technology has failed to improve quality of life, press three"

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    I'll venture to say that most car drivers are not very aware of the cost of their trips and accurately factoring that into a cost vs benefit analysis. Most are oblivious. They have a need, they jump in the car. I see it every day.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wipekitty View Post
    On the other hand, my partner and I wear out clothing and especially shoes more quickly. In the winter, we use more water than a car-dependent household might for both laundry and showering, since we have to wear a lot of clothing to go outside.
    Do you use much wool? I believe its production is more sustainable than cotton or most synthetic fabrics. Also you rarely have to wash it. I had a second hand cashmere sweater that I used as a base layer (undershirt) for several seasons of daily cycling. I never had to wash it or have it dry cleaned, and it never smelled bad. I guess the bacteria that cause odors just can't survive on wool.


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    winter wipeout kitty wipekitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody View Post
    Do you use much wool? I believe its production is more sustainable than cotton or most synthetic fabrics. Also you rarely have to wash it. I had a second hand cashmere sweater that I used as a base layer (undershirt) for several seasons of daily cycling. I never had to wash it or have it dry cleaned, and it never smelled bad. I guess the bacteria that cause odors just can't survive on wool.
    I'd love to get into wool - but I haven't been able to find a good source that's in my price range. I keep checking the thrift shops, but they never have much in small people sizes, which is what we need. Same problem with Fleabay, army surplus, overstock sites...

    It's a good reminder to keep checking, though. I can't wait for winter!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    I'll venture to say that most car drivers are not very aware of the cost of their trips and accurately factoring that into a cost vs benefit analysis. Most are oblivious. They have a need, they jump in the car. I see it every day.
    You're probably right, although to be honest I'd rate the desire to consider the cost of fuel to be part of keeping spending under control rather than necessarily having anything to do with the desire to conserve resources.

    It does seem a lot of people just drive wherever they feel the urge to be and regard the cost of filling up as a random cost that just happens to them. Maybe it's just a different mindset, maybe my outlook relates to the price of fuel over here (about $8.50/gal in US terms, last time I checked)
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    Quote Originally Posted by tandempower View Post
    I really enjoy reading your posts. Have you thought about some kind of wheelchair/bike setup, such as a pedicab type of setup where you pull her wheelchair as a trailer or maybe one of those wheelchair bikes where you push the wheelchair in the front of the bike? http://www.resthaven.org/702032.ihtml
    Another option might be the Hase tandems. I met a couple on tour in VA a few weeks back. The lady riding on the front has a form of MS and cannot ride alone or on a conventional bike, but was having on problems on the Hase Pino.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wahoonc View Post
    Another option might be the Hase tandems. I met a couple on tour in VA a few weeks back. The lady riding on the front has a form of MS and cannot ride alone or on a conventional bike, but was having on problems on the Hase Pino.

    Aaron
    That's pretty cool looking! An option for some no doubt. Unfortunately my mother has a degenerative muscle disease and does well to stay up right in the wheelchair . She would not be able to get on and off the bicycle without a lot of help. And then she'd be prone to falling out of the seat, unless there were some sturdy arm rests she could brace herself with.

    But I'm sure this would be great for many people with less dramatic conditions - like she was a few years ago.

  19. #19
    New Orleans
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    Slight aside-
    I'm not one bit car free-but I follow local-New Orleans-trends
    We now have a Bicycle Powered Moving Service
    Yeah started advertising on CL several months back
    Just $20/hr (too cheap they HAVE to charge more than that or they will be out of business)
    Yeah they posted these cool trailers that they put BIG BINS on-haul large bulky loads.
    Not sure what there ranges is-probably cover most of the city-we are flat-but might be tricky to cross industrial canal-
    Probably can do it-just need LOTS of gearing
    We still have a ferry for the river

    Yeah Bicycle powered moving service-cheap too- too cheap probably.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walter S View Post
    That's pretty cool looking! An option for some no doubt. Unfortunately my mother has a degenerative muscle disease and does well to stay up right in the wheelchair . She would not be able to get on and off the bicycle without a lot of help. And then she'd be prone to falling out of the seat, unless there were some sturdy arm rests she could brace herself with.

    But I'm sure this would be great for many people with less dramatic conditions - like she was a few years ago.
    Oh well, innovation works best when it emerges from the individual(s) most knowledgable about the situation. That is the other thing I enjoy about car-free living, the active creative pursuit of subsequent innovations to make things easier and more effective, little by little.

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